Encroachment of various rivers of Bangladesh has been going on indiscriminately for the last 30 years or more.
Some influential local people with the support of politically powerful entities managed to occupy the banks of the once flowing rivers where they constructed high-rise buildings, shops and factories to earn money.
In a bid to keep the records straight, they bribed the actual owners of the land, BIWTA, land offices and municipal corporations and ‘created’ false records showing them as real owners. They paid land taxes and utility bills every year to enforce their ownership.
Major rivers like the Buriganga, Shitalakhya, Turag, Balu and Karnaphuli started to narrow down in width because of unabated encroachment.
Occasional drives to evict the illegal occupants yielded no permanent solution as the encroachers always came back after the cranes and bulldozers left the scene.
But, this time around, we see a different picture regarding eviction of river bank encroachers. The government machinery is going all guns blazing emboldened by the prime minister’s resolve to uproot corruption. The minister concerned gave orders to pay no heed to the eviction victims as they have no legal claim on the land. The on the field magistrates and law enforcers also remain unmoved by the plea of the encroachers.
The attached photograph says a lot about the narrowing of river Turag near Abdullahpur, Uttara. The high-rise buildings on both sides have been erected on land that once belonged to the river. Occupiers are still trying to grab whatever is left of the river where once fairly large passenger and cargo vessels used to ply. The water has turned completely polluted and the riverbed is filled with silt thereby allowing only shallow draft vessels to ply.
Cross-sections of people including environmentalists hope Turag will also be cleared of the encroachers the way Karnaphuli and Buriganga are being cleared by government bulldozers.
No one can be more powerful and influential than the government, they say adding, therefore, corrupt elements must be evicted for good and the land should be used for a better cause.